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Appeal of Leblanc

Supreme Court of New Hampshire

December 23, 2008

Appeal of Gertrude Leblanc

UNPUBLISHED OPINION

The employee, Gertrude Leblanc, appeals an order of the compensation appeals board (board) denying her request for reimbursement of medical treatment. She argues that the board erred in: (1) finding that her myofascial pain syndrome was not related to her work injury; (2) relying upon the opinion of one expert who found that she had reached maximum medical improvement; and (3) finding that her treatment was for a condition which did not exist. We affirm.

We will affirm the board's decision absent an error of law or unless by a clear preponderance of the evidence, we conclude that it is unjust or unreasonable. Appeal of Fay, 150 N.H. 321, 324 (2003). We consider the board's factual findings to be prima facie lawful and reasonable. Id. The appealing party bears the burden of demonstrating that the board's decision was erroneous. Id.

The injured employee bears the burden of proving that subsequent medical treatment is reasonable and required as a result of the injury; the employee is entitled to compensation for medical treatment only so long as the condition or disability requiring treatment is causally related to the initial compensable injury. Appeal of Wingate, 149 N.H. 12, 15 (2002).

The employee first argues that the board erred in finding that her myofascial pain syndrome was unrelated to her work injury. She cites several reports of an independent medical examiner (IME) in support of her contention that the board erred in finding that her treatment for myofascial pain syndrome was unrelated, as opposed to no longer related, to her 2002 injury. As the employee notes in her brief, the issue before the board was whether treatment that she received after October 2003 was compensable. Accordingly, whether the treatment was ever related to the injury may be a factor, but it is not dispositive of the issue. We have reviewed the cited reports and the testimony of the IME at the hearing and find that there is sufficient evidence in the record to support the board's determination that the "treatment for the myofascial pain syndrome is also deemed unrelated, not reasonable or necessary as a result of the work injury of January 2002." See Appeal of Anheuser-Busch Co., 156 N.H. 677, 683 (2008) (as long as competent evidence supports board's decision, supreme court will not reverse finding supported by expert evidence in record even if other evidence would lead to contrary result).

The employee also argues that the board erred in relying upon the IME's opinion that she had reached maximum medical improvement to conclude that the continued treatment was unnecessary. We are not persuaded by this argument. The record reveals that the IME based his conclusion upon several factors, including his examination of the employee and his review of her medical records, which included the results of diagnostic tests. That the IME may have considered the earlier opinion of another expert about maximum medical improvement in determining whether in his opinion the ongoing treatment was related to the 2002 injury does not render his opinion invalid.

Finally, the employee argues that the board erred in denying payment of claims for stellate ganglion block treatment because the condition for which it was prescribed, complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), had already been "ruled out." She challenges the accuracy of the finding that the condition had been ruled out. As she concedes, her primary care physician referred her to a neurologist who stated in September 2004 that he did not believe she suffered from CRPS. She began the treatments in 2005. Accordingly, there is evidence in the record to support the board's finding that the employee failed to sustain her burden of proving that the treatment for which she sought payment was required or reasonable as a result of her January 2002 injury.

Affirmed.

DALIANIS, DUGGAN and HICKS, JJ., ...


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